Imagine if we all lived by the words of Titus 3:2, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Sounds like heaven.
This section in the book of Titus seems like common sense to many, but it is hard to imagine this reality in the world we live in where aggression, quarreling and disobedience seem to be the rule in so many areas of life. People calling each other names, trying to destroy each other with words and refusing to compromise, refusing to relent so as not to be seen as fragile in a world that sees rebellion as a virtue.
Charles Swindoll once said, “In our rough-and-rugged individualism, we think of gentleness as weakness, being soft, and virtually spineless. Not so! … Gentleness includes such enviable qualities as having strength under control, being calm and peaceful when surrounded by a heated atmosphere, emitting a soothing effect on those who may be angry or otherwise beside themselves, and possessing tact and gracious courtesy that causes others to retain their self-esteem and dignity…. Instead of losing, the gentle gain. Instead of being ripped off and taken advantage of, they come out ahead!”
The kind of gentleness that God calls us to is not for the weak but for the strong. It takes courage to take a step back in the heat of battle. It takes strength to bite your tongue when you’re angry. It takes determination to see both sides of an argument. Gentleness does not mean weakness, it means godliness and nobody would ever mistake God Almighty as weak.
Proverbs 15:1 tells us that, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We see examples of this everywhere, people taking the easy way through anger rather than gentleness. Its much easier for those of us under the curse of sin to be antagonists. Our natural inclination is to have others feel our wrath when we feel we have been wronged. It takes much more effort to approach our trials with gentleness, but in the end, those who accomplish this find that it’s a much more affective approach.
In Psalm 18, David said it was because of God’s gentleness that he (David) became great. God could have looked at all of David’s many mistakes and given up on him. He could have rained down His wrath. David certainly deserved it for some of the things he had done.
Yet God chose to deal with David in gentleness, the same way He chooses to deal with you and me. He was patient but He had expectations of David. He was loving even in His discipline. God knew that the best motivation for David was not righteous anger but unending love.
Paul advised another one of His students, Timothy, in much the same way that he advised Titus saying, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:22-25)
Paul was consistent in his message that gentleness is much more effective than harshness. He knew that Timothy would find himself in the middle of controversy and quarrels at times and He wanted Him to take the wise approach, the godly approach of gentleness because, only in gentleness might we find peace.
In a world that seems to cherish conflict, God is looking to us to be His examples of gentleness and mercy. There is so much good in the world to focus on, so many signs of God, so much of His grace that we need to share. If we do, little by little, the world will turn from its need for adversity to a world where peace and gentleness are the rule.
God’s wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason and full of mercy (James 3:17). May we find ways to show this wisdom to the world by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, thank you for dealing with us with gentleness and mercy when all we deserve is Your wrath. Help us to show this same kind of restraint to the world. Teach us to act in kindness and gentleness. Amen.